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Structured Deferred Sentence


Local Authority area:


Primary Courts of relevance:

Aberdeen, Banff, Peterhead

All information provided by:

Aberdeen Community Justice Partnership

Aberdeenshire Community Justice Information

Published: 23 April 2021

The information on this page has been provided by Community Justice Partnerships. Community Justice Scotland is not responsible for the accuracy of the information and is unable to respond to direct queries. All such queries in respect of the information shown on this page should be directed to the Community Justice Partnership to which it relates.

This information will be reviewed and updated where required.

Structured Deferred Sentence

Interventions suitable for

Structured Deferred Sentences are intended for individuals presenting with underlying problems or chaotic lifestyles that result in offending behaviour or with a higher level of risk/need, and who require or would benefit from Social Work support. This could include:

  • Individuals ages 16-26 years (but not exclusively)
  • Individuals with a limited offending history or first-time offences
  • Individuals with limited recent offending
  • Individuals at risk from custody, and where risk can be safely managed in the community (for example this could be individuals with a recent history of non-compliance, persistent low-level offending, first offence which is of a serious nature, etc.)
  • Individuals identified as having complex needs, such as basic employability, history of trauma/abuse, substance misuse, physical/mental health, isolation, relationships difficulties or negative associations, etc.
  • Individuals already subject to a community-based disposal(s) could also be considered for a Structured Deferred Sentence.

Programme title and provider

Structured Deferred Sentence

Details of all Specific national or local scheme/intervention(s) available

Local Authorities are now directly funded by the Scottish Government to deliver Structured Deferred Sentences as a disposal from Court.
In Aberdeenshire, Structured Deferred Sentences are delivered by the Aberdeenshire Council Criminal Justice Social Work Service. Structured Deferred Sentences offer a credible and effective alternative to a Community Payback Order or a short period of imprisonment. A Structured Deferred Sentence can be imposed at the point of conviction but prior to sentencing, and allows for early intervention via a short period of structured support and focused work (normally between 3 to 6 months) delivered by Justice Social Work and/or multi-agency partners. The aim of this work is to address immediate and underlying welfare and criminogenic needs and to build motivation and capacity for change.
This intervention should divert individuals from the Criminal Justice System and in turn:

  • Avoid premature or unnecessary intensive periods of supervision in the community or short-terms custodial sentences
  • Reduce the frequency or seriousness of offending behaviour.
  • Reduce stigmatisation

Structured Deferred Sentences aim to reduce the “revolving door” effect of the Criminal Justice System by providing a starting point to address the individuals’ underlying needs and achieve stability in their lives through early and effective engagement with Services. This should divert them away from offending and re-offending and provide a potential route out of the Criminal Justice System.
A Structured Deferred Sentence carries the incentive of possible admonishment if full participation and positive change is achieved, as opposed to the alternative of short custodial sentences or length community-based disposals. It can also provide an opportunity to demonstrate motivation and willingness to engage and make progress should the suitability or a Community Payback Order be in question.
Work involves a combination of practical and therapeutic support. It initially focuses on welfare needs in order to achieve stability and positive change in the individuals’ life, before proceeding to offence-focused work. For a Structured Deferred Sentence to be successful, it requires a multi-agency approach and therefore involves direct work with Criminal Justice Social Work as well as signposting and proactive and supported access to partner Services, including:

  • Health Services, including General Practice, Community Mental Health Team, Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), Breathing Space
  • Substance Misuse Services, including Community Substance Misuse Team, Turning Point, Alcohol and Drugs Action
  • Grampian Women’s Aid
  • Job Centre Plus, Gordon Rural Action, Scottish Welfare Fund, local foodbanks
  • Venture Trust/Prince’s Trust
  • Further Local Authority services including Housing, Benefits and Employability Services, and Children and Families Social Work.

Possible Outcomes

As per National Outcome and Standards for Criminal Justice Social Work:

  1. Community safety and public protection
  2. The reduction of re-offending
  3. Social inclusion to support desistance from offending

In terms of Community Justice Outcomes, Structured Deferred Sentences could contribute towards:

  • Effective Interventions are delivered to prevent and reduce the risk of further offending
  • People develop positive relationships and more opportunities to participate and contribute through education, employment and leisure activities.
  • Individuals’ resilience and capacity for change and self-management are enhanced.

Process for Assessment and/or inclusion in scheme/intervention

A Social Work assessment is required to determine the suitability of a Structured Deferred Sentence. This can be requested by the Sheriff or suggested by the Defence Agent when requesting a Criminal Justice Social Work Report, or by Criminal Justice Social Workers when undertaking a Criminal Justice Social Work Report request. It will be delivered to the Court via either:

  • Inclusion in a Criminal Justice Social Work Report, as community-based recommendation


  • A stand down report by the Aberdeenshire Court Social Worker, if available and where the necessary information is immediately available.

A Structured Deferred Sentence assessment will include:

  • An assessment of the individual’s readiness to change and willingness to engage
  • Identifying areas in an individual’s life where they  may require additional support
  • An Action Plan, detailing:
    • An outline of the mutually-agreed areas to be addressed and targets to achieve change (goals)
    • Workers or Services to be involved
    • Tasks to be completed
    • A timeline including frequency of contact and reviews dates

Where no specific scheme/intervention is available, is there capacity to provide a bespoke service based on judicial request?

Structured Deferred Sentences are available to anyone from the Aberdeenshire area who is appearing in Court.